Real people often have busy schedules – and although sometimes getting together in person is necessary, getting together in one place is not always practical, and sometimes simply impossible. WebEx is one of the most popular solutions for organizing virtual meetings. WebEx enables all participants to hear one another; to share anything that can be shown on their computer screen – from PowerPoint presentations, to drafts of documents; to invite any of the participants to become the presenter; and even to show a video of the speaker as a picture-in-picture over a narrated slide presentation. WebEx meetings can be recorded, and chat is available to allow for asking questions or signaling potential communication problems without being too intrusive or disruptive.
Anyone can go to WebEx.com and create a free account. Free accounts allow anyone to organize a meeting with two other participants (a total of three meeting participants, including the meeting host). This may be ideal for continuing small group conversations from Collaborative Learning Classroom (CLC), outside of class – comparing notes, reviewing material or preparing an in-class presentation. For larger groups, our SoN license allows instructors to organize meetings for up to 100 participants (including the host).
To find out more about WebEx, see a series of short how-to videos on WEbEx website. If you are a SoN instructor interested in using WebEx – whether it’s for small group work among students, or for a larger group in your course, please contact George Jura to schedule a brief demo and to discuss the ways in which WebEx can help you teach your course. >> Image / illustration credit: Shutterstock.com / Anita Ponne
A few quick WebEx pointers
- Create a “crash dummy” participant for important, large-enrollment WebEx sessions. If you organize WebEx sessions for large groups frequently, consider creating a free “dummy” email account on one of the popular online services with which you are familiar (for example, Gmail or Hotmail). Then, using another computer (if you happen to have one available), a smart phone (iPhone or Android phone), or iPad, join your own WebEx session as a participant using this account. This will let you see and experience your WebEx session from the point of view of a participant (even before the session starts): you will be able to confirm that the email invitations got delivered, and even join the session early, and make sure that you (that is, your “dummy” account) can see and hear everything without problem. This way, if something does not work properly (for example, you, in your role as participant, can’t hear the sound, because the host’s mike is accidentally switched to “mute”) you will be able to easily discover and quickly address any potential issues in advance. If you use this “Crash Dummy” technique, remember to turn down the volume (or use headphones or mute the speaker) on your “dummy” account, to avoid an unpleasant sound of a microphone feedback loop!
- Always share web content during a WebEx session using an alternate browser. If your session will include showing / sharing web-based content (websites, or web-based applications), consider using a different browser for that activity than the one you are using to run your WebEx session. This way, you minimize the chances of accidentally closing the WebEx window when switching between browser tabs, and you also minimize the possibility that a misbehaved online page or app may cause your browser to crash, and disconnect all your meeting participants. Make sure to recommend that your meeting participants do the same, if they are planning on sharing web-based content with others.
- Announce your session’s planned start time through both chat and as an audio announcement. If you are using the Intro Slide technique, it may be a good idea to come back periodically (for example, every 5 minutes) to make a short announcement using your mike, for example, say “Hello, thank you for joining the meeting. We will be starting in about X minutes,” or read a short announcement (for example, a brief agenda for the meeting). Each time before you start speaking, use the chat to announce that you will be speaking so that your participants have a chance to verify that they can hear you. After you are done making the brief announcement, remember to mute your mike again.
- Use a pause button during a sharing session. When you share your screen during a WebEx session, sometimes you may need to find some information on your computer (for example, find a file you want to share with the audience on your hard drive, or check a date of something on Wikipedia). Remember that the sharing bar at the top of your screen has a Pause button – this button “freezes” what the participants have on their screen – once you click Pause you can go looking for information on your computer (or online) and the participants will NOT see it, until you are ready and click the Pause button again.
Please contact George Jura if you’d like to schedule a WebEx meeting for your class, or if you’d like more information about using WebEx. Originally published in Sept. 2013; last updated on Aug. 20, 2015.